Monday, September 5, 2016

Communicating Effectively In Writing

We use writing in all aspects of our lives whether it's an email, a text message, a blog or something else entirely. Writing is one of the most powerful mediums we have in communicating our ideas. Given that, it's important for you to understand how to communicate effectively.

Understand what you are trying to achieve

Before you communicate in writing you should clearly understand what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to disseminate information? Are you making a call to action? Are you soliciting information? Understanding this will help you better frame your narrative such that you can effectively achieve your goals.

Lead with the call to action

This is akin to putting the most important information first. Your reader shouldn't have to hunt for what you're asking them to do. You should be explicit up front about *what* the call to action is and then provide more information as to *why* you're calling them to act.

For example: "Project X is 8 dev weeks behind schedule and needs 2 additional developers for 4 weeks to meet the original delivery date."

Put the most important information first and layer in the context

Someone familiar with the problem space should be able to stop reading after the first few paragraphs or the first page and grasp the main point of the text. Your reader should only have to dig into the back story if they want. Providing too much context can get in the way of what you're trying to achieve. On the flip side, not providing enough context can leave your reader with more questions than when they started. If you layer in the context you give your reader the ability to choose if they have enough information or if they need to keep reading.

Footnotes: Writing is a unique medium that allows you to point out where your data comes from in such a way as to not distract from the main point. Footnotes give you the opportunity to back up your narrative with facts, but allow you to layer them in such that the reader only has to read what they care about.

Appendices: If you have a lot of context that is important but not primary to the narrative, throw them in an appendix. The curious or skeptical reader can go and dig more into the *why* of your narrative without you having to detract from the flow.

Read it out loud

Proof reading silently make it very easy for your mind to skip over something that you've spent a good amount of time on. Proof reading out loud allows you to find areas where the narrative doesn't flow. It also gives you the opportunity to figure out where you have too much or too little information.

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